Among hip hop's ever-evolving soundscape, few albums transcend time and cement themselves as cultural markers. South African rapper Nasty C’s sophomore album, 2018’s Strings and Bling, emerged as a singular opus that defied the ephemeral nature of the genre and has since cemented its status as an enduring masterpiece. The album's mix of bass-blaring trap and vulnerable R&B simultaneously upended expectations and cemented Nasty C’s status as one of the country's most lethal wordsmiths. Each track serves as a chapter in a captivating narrative, skilfully tackling alcoholism, the pressures of fame, and the pursuit of self-discovery.
“Listen, I'm not even ashamed to say it—I think that it's my favourite album,” Nasty C tells Apple Music. “It may not be my most well received album, but it’s definitely my favourite. I still refer to Strings and Bling for how to structure my intros and outros. That album was the foundation of so many things for me.” Here, Nasty C talks us through the key tracks from the album.
“Strings and Bling”
“This was very much a statement record. Even though it wasn’t track one, it sets the tone for the whole album. I was very into string instruments at the time but I also viewed ‘strings’ as a metaphor for the connections you have with the people you care about the most. The ‘kumbaya’ refrain came from the fact that I just wanted to spread peace and positivity. But I also hint at my struggles with alcohol addiction. There’s a line where I say ‘I tell all my secrets to a bottle’. But I said it in a slick way so no one caught it.”
“This was a freestyle. I was just having fun on the record. I don’t write hooks, period but here even the first verse was a freestyle. People who’ve been vibing with me since ‘Price City’ know I can say the dumbest and most disrespectful things and make it sound cool. The first line of this song is ‘I fuck who I want, when I want/Ain’t no rules in the jungle.’ I was just having fun.”
“This one is interesting because I was just thinking about performances. I do this thing where I have songs that lead into other songs when I perform. And I think that's just what I was thinking when I made “No Respect”—I was just thinking of a song that'll lead [into] another hype song.”
“King” (feat. A$AP Ferg)
“I was fairly new to Joburg when I wrote ‘King’. I’d only been here for two years and at the time everyone was calling each other ‘king’ as a manner of address. So I thought it would be cool to make a song with that title that had nothing to do with royalty. I went into the booth and started freestyling and that was the result. Fun fact: that A$AP Ferg verse was meant for a song called ‘Give Me That’. It was way slower but when I put his vocals on ‘King’ and sped them up, it just made sense.”
“I still perform ‘Gravy’ to this day.When I made the track, I was just vibing out. I think it's one of those songs where I had my eyes closed throughout the entire recording session. I freestyle the whole thing. I swear, I just had a cup in my hand and my eyes were closed the whole time. And I just felt really, really good. And it's one of those songs, whenever it comes on, people just feel the same. When I perform it, I make them put their cups in the air and it’s always great to see their response.”
“SMA” (feat. Rowlene)
“Rowlene was like a sister to me at the time. We’d been working together for so long and I think we were even living together around the time we made the song. We had this house where the whole camp stayed together and we’d make music. I recorded this during a period where I was intentionally trying to write stuff that was very easy to understand. I’m a very technical rapper. I grew up listening to Slaughterhouse and the like. But here I wanted to make a super pop record. I wanted it to have an Eminem/Rihanna vibe—something that could potentially be used as a movie soundtrack.”
“Everything” (feat. Kaien Cruz)
“‘Everything’ is a song that I'm really proud of. And I like the fact that people that are true Nasty C fans love that song and they know it. But because it wasn't a song that I pushed on socials or did a video for, I can't perform it everywhere. But it's just one of the songs that I'm really proud of, man. That string progression reminds me of Sean Kingston’s early work. It's a very happy melody and it’s quite nostalgic. Again, it's one of those very honest songs where I spoke about a real life event. And every time I listen to it, it's just very nostalgic. Not because the song’s vibe but because of what happened at the mall when I met the person I was talking about.”
“This song has aged so well. I think it’s in the same family as “SMA”. It’s such a personal song. I’ve been focusing a lot more on writing honest music. Music that hits the heart. I’m not trying to make puzzles for people to figure out when they listen to it. And that's one of those songs that really reminds me that I can do that. When I'm comfortable enough to make a song, purely because of how it makes you feel and not the sound that's trending. And I think I did that well on that song
“This was just one of those where we just got high, and we just recorded. Honestly, there was no thought behind that song. I was just playing around with melodies, and this was around the time when Super Slimey [a mixtape by Young Thug and Future] had dropped. Future was talking a lot about Givenchy and that gave me the idea for the hook. I was just playing around with melodies. Most of the shit I say in there means nothing. And that's not a thing I’m ashamed of, by the way. That’s not a thing we're ashamed of as rappers. We have these hype songs, where we just talk shit. And there's just cool lines after one another, but contextually, there's no story.”
“The first line here is ‘I ain’t no celebrity’. I meant it in the sense that you won't see me at the bar every month, every week. You're not going to see stories of me every day. I'm just not a guy who's trying to put himself out there. I want you to know my music. I want you to know my lyrics and my artistic work.”